Mega Powers Running Wild!

The legendary 'Macho man' Randy Savage teams up with 'The Immortal' Hulk Hogan to take on Ted Dibiase and Andre The Giant in the first ever WWF Summerslam!

Shawn Micahels vs. Mankind

The Heartbreak Kid defends the WWF Championship against Mankind in a thrilling main event at WWF In Your House: Mind Games.

The Birth of the nWo

From Hulk Hogan's shocking turn at WCW Bash at the Beach 1996 to the addition of Ted Dibiase, THe Giant Syxx and more, relive the very beginning of the New World Order.

Austin 3:16 Says I Just Kicked Your Ass

It's one of the most famous promos of all time; Stone Cold Steve Austin wins the 1996 King of The Ring and serves notice on all the WWF superstars. Check it out in our complete review

Wrestlemania 12 Review

The boyhood dream comes true as Shawn Michaels battles champion Bret 'The Hitman' Hart in a classic 1-hour iron man match. Plus, Diesel vs. Undertaker and more.

WCW Fall Brawl 1996 Review

Was Sting in cahoots with the New World Order? Would Lex Luger be able to get along with the Four Horsemen as they faced the nWo in War Games? Find out in this review

Sunday, 9 August 2015

PPV REVIEW: WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1996 (and Free for All)

WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1996: Event poster
January 21, 1996,
Selland Arena in Fresno, California

It was the start of a brand new year, and the WWF's New Generation experiment was reaching its apex. Over the coming twelve months, we'd see the most subtle of seeds being planted, ready to blossom into the company's most successful boom period to date: The Attitude Era.

Yet as the superstars of the World Wrestling Federation rolled into Fresno, California that Sunday night back in January 1996, few could truly have predicted how completly different the WWF landscape would look only 18 months from now.

Not that they had any reason to. Tonight, there was only one thing on everybody's minds; who would be heading into Wrestlemania 12 to compete for the World Wrestling Federation title. Would reigning champion Bret 'The Hitman' Hart hold onto the belt in tonight's main event.against The Undertaker? Who would be the man to emerge victorious from this evening's 30-man battle royal, earning the right to face the champion on The BIggest Stage of Them All?

Let's cut the dramatic intro here and dive right in to find out, shall we?

Another dramatic intro

OK, so maybe the drama stuff isn't over just yet. Tonight's show begins with a movie-trailer type promo hyping the aforementioned championship match. I could tell you more, but here's the video so that you can watch this for yourself until such times as WWE catch on and take it down.

Intense, right?

WWF Royal Rumble 1996 Free For All

For the first time ever (apparently, though I seem to recall otherwise), the WWF kicked off tonight's show with their Free For All, a 30 minute broadcast,' ostenbibly designed as the company's way at giving us fans a free bonus, but really a not-so-subtle attempt to shill for last minute buys. 

The broadcast kicked off with Todd Pettengill and Doc Hendrix stood by the entrance in all their tuxedo-clad glory, one of the nice little touches the company used to do to remind us all that this was no average show. Taking a few moments to tell us about all the goodies we'd see in this half-hour commercial, Todd and Doc then passed over to our Free for All commentary team, Vince McMahon and Mr. Perfect. 

It's Vader Time

WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1996: Jim Cornette revealed that he was Vader's new manager
Looking equally as sharp as their broadcast colleagues, Vince and Perfect gave us yet more hype for tonight's show before once again passing back to the former Michael P.S Hayes. Backstage, Doc was standing by with none other than former WCW Champion Vader who, after much fuss and hullaboo, was finally making his debut at tonight's show. 

The big man from the Rocky Mountains wasn't alone however. None other than Jim Cornette was there too. As excitable and obnoxious as ever, Jimmy raved to Hendrix about how thrilled he was to be managing Vader, and just how much joy he was going to take in seeing the Mastadon win first the Royal Rumble, and then the WWF Championship.

For his part, the debuting Superstar screamed about the power of the Rocky Mountains and told us that, yes, it was indeed Vader Time.

Oh Vader, what might have been...

Jake The Snake returns 

WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1996: Jake 'The Snake' Roberts competed in the Royal Rumble match
With that, it was back to Todd Pettingill, who had an interview with a returning Jake 'The Snake' Roberts. Unlike most wrestlers at this time of year, Roberts didn't exactly boast that he'd win the Royal Rumble, but simply said that the demons in the ring that night would not be quite as big as the demons in Mr. The Snake himself. 


There's a title match tonight, y'know 

In case you hadn't quite figured it out yet, another one of those WWF video packages was up next to remind us that Bret Hart would defend his title against The Undertaker on tonight's show. In his familiar role as voice over man, Pettingill took us back to the December 1995 In Your House show, where Undertaker was named the number one contender, much to the chargrin of another former champion, Big Daddy Cool Diesel. 

The story also contained a clip from a Monday Night Raw promo by The Hitman, where he told his opponent to bring 'The Paul Bearer,' making this writer wonder if that's not where The Brian Kendrick drew the inspiration for the latter part of his own WWE run. 

Hunter Hearst Helmlsey vs. Duke 'The Dumpster' Droese 

WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1996: Triple H faced Duke 'The Dumpster' Droese in the Free for All
As Hunter Hearst Helmsley began making his way to the ring, he was interupted by the apparently omnipresent Todd Pettengill, who took the trouble to remind him -and us- of the reason for tonight's match:

Earlier on in the evening, both men had drawn 'blanks' in the Royal Rumble draw (uh huh), and conviniently, numbers 2-29 had been taken up by te other superstars. So, tonight, The Greenwich Snob and The Dumpster would ahem, duke it out, to see which one would enter the Royal Rumble at number one, and which would get the coveted number 30 spot. 

Among other things, Helmsley guaranteed a victory before telling Todd to inform 'The Fat Lady' that she was 'on in five.' 

A second later, Duke Droese nade his entrance and Vince McMahon positively lost his mind, selling the arrival of the wrestling garbage man like he was the second coming of Hogan. Pettingill took the time to interview Duke too, though all we really got out of this was the predictable 'I'm going tow in, then win the Rumble' promo. 

WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1996: Todd Pettengill interviews Hunter Hearst Helmsley
As for the match itself, it was, well, it was Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. Duke Drosse on a pre-show. If you were expecting a five-star classic here, it's probably time you started taking your medication again. 

In front of a rather non-plus crowd (many of whom were still filing in as the match went on), Hunter and Duke did nothing particularly interesting in a short match where the only notable moment was Mr. Perfect referring to Hunter as Triple H for the first time (at least on PPV). 

The end came when Helmsley pulled a foreign object out of his tights, levelled the garbage man with it, and picked up the win. 

Moments later, new WWF President Gorilla Monsoon made his way to the ring, showed referee Tim White what had gone down via the video screen, and had Mr. White reverse the decision.

And I'm sure this is the same Monsoon who at some point during his presidential tenure decreed that all referee's decisions would be final.
Your Winner via disqualification: Duke 'The Dumpster' Droese. 

So there you go folks, Duke Drosse was the number 30 entrant in the 1996 Royal Rumble. Not only that, but by winning, he was also the first man in the WWE to gain a victory over Triple H. 

Anyway, moving on, we got more promo stuff next, this time focusing on the rivalry between Goldust and Intercontinental Champion Razor Ramon. If you recall, this all revolved around Goldie becoming so infatuated with The Bad Guy that Razor turned up 'unannounced' at Raw and beat the holy living hell out of the man better known as Dustin Rhodes. 

Shawn Michaels returns to the WWF 

WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1996: Shawn Michaels having fun with Todd Pettengill
Having been AWOl since Owen Hart took him out of action with that famous enzeguri in one of the most dramatic worked injury angles ever, The Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels finally made his return tonight in an interview segment with quel surprise, Todd Pettengill.

Refusing to tell Todd what number he'd drawn for tonight's Rumble, HBK insisted that he would come out 'when [he] wanted' and would only leave after he'd eliminated everybody. Taking the time to reference the WWF fans as his 'clique' (in a not-so-subtle nod to his backstage buddies no doubt), Shawn then declared that he didn't care who his friends were, he'd throw them all over the top rope to get his hands on the WWF title. 

Hunter is mad 

WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1996: Shawn Michaels was happy to be back in action
From there, we went backstage, where Triple H ranted and raved to Doc Hendrix about how unfair it was that Gorilla Monsoon had reversed the decision in the former's earlier match with Duke Droese. Going back to the replay once more, Hunter claimed that the foreign object was actually something that the fans had thrown into the ring and he was trying to get rid of,. 

Welcome to the Royal Rumble!

My own copy of this show goes funky for a minute, as I get a clip of some posh people beating each other up without any audio, proceeded by a bizare clip of Sunny in a bathtub, informing us that today's show would feature 'scenes of a graphic nature.' 

Another promo video (this time not voiced by Pettengill) then hyped the big matches on tonight's show before the usual pyro, crowd shot and Vince McGrowl welcomed us to the show properly. 

With that out of the way, it was on to our first proper match of the show. 

Double J Jeff Jarrett vs. Ahmed Johnson 

If you recall, this rivallry began at last month's In Your House: Seasons Beatings, when Jeff Jarrett returned to the World Wrestling Federation and took it upon himself to beat up the burly Ahmed Johnson with his guitar. 

Hungry for revenge, Johnson rushed to the ring and went straight after his opponent,  pummeling him around the ring much to the delight of the Fresno faithful. 

Ahmed's beat down continued until a mistimed spot saw the Pearl River Powerhouse voluntarily throw himself over the top rope and get his hand stuck in a sort of half-arsed tribute to Andre The Giant. No doubt there's an episode of Botchamania out there with this very moment on it. 

Anyway,the blown spot gave Jarrett the opportunity to take the advantage for a while, before Ahmed no-sold his way to a comeback and thrilled the crowd with both an impressive looking plancha and some kind of top-rope somersault move that he ultimately missed, giving us no real indication of what he was aiming for, other than to simply just squash his opponent. 

The missed move caused Ahmed to writhe on the mat holding his knee, which of course was the perfect set-up for Jarrett's patent-disputed figure four leg lock, The big man reversed the hold, so Jarrett tried again, only to booted through the ropes for his troubles. Having just about had enough, the country star grabbed his trusty six string, leapt off the ropes and KO'd Johnson with it, giving us our second DQ in as many matches.
Your Winner via DQ: Ahmed Johnson

Pissed off, Johnson started running backstage in pursuit of his rival, only to either run out of steam or simply forget that he was still on camera and slowed to a stroll as he went through the curtain.

Promo time 

WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1996: The Smoking Gunns talk about their title defence against The Body Donnas
First up, a mustache-free Billy Gunn and his still hirsute brother Bart cut a lifeless, awkard promo backstage where they vowed to retain the WWF Tag Team titles against The Body Donnas. 

From there, the ever-present Pettingill caught up with Big Daddy Cool, who claimed he was going to have the time of his life in tonight's show. Diesel then put over Shawn Michaels and Vader, and even insisted that he wasn't personally annoyed with The Undertaker, but rather his position as the Number ONe Contender. 

World Wrestling Federation Tag Team Championship
WWF Tag Team Champions The Smoking Gunns (Billy & Bart Gunn) vs. The Body Donnas (Skip & Zip w/ Sunny)

Easily the best match on the card up to this point, the WWF Tag Team Championship match between the cowboys and the fitness freaks was as entertaining as you could hope for from a mid-90s WWF tag match,

Fast paced for the most part with a brief of amount of lag during the 'heels cut off the babyface' spot, was fun from start to finish, and did a great job in making the Body Donnas look awesome despite their somewhat silly gimmick. 

WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1996: Sunny led Skip and Zip into action against The Smoking Gunns for the WWF Tag Team Titles
Indeed, the tandem of Chris Candido and Tom Pritchard could have easily gone on to become one of the most memorable teams in the company's history had they come along at a different point in time. Alas, they were here now, and almost looked certain to score a win before a sneaky roll up gave the three count to the champions.
Your Winners and Still Tag Team Champions: The Smoking Gunns 

Afterwards, Skip, Zip and Sunny through a bit of a temper tantrum in the ring before Vince told us that we were about to see something which he claimed was 'very popular' but which history absolutely proves otherwise. 

Billionaire Ted, The Huckster and the Nacho Man

You remember these skits, right? The WWF's low-brow attempt at making fun of a WCW that would go on to kick their ass for a sizeable chunk of the mid-late 90s. Featuring 'Billionaire Ted' Turner and two supposedly geriatric wrestlers in the form of The Huckster (or Hulk Hogan) and the Nacho Man (or the late Randy Savage), the idea behind these was to say 'hey, look, that other wrestling company can only get washed up old has-beens..let's just forget that both men held our top prize only three and four years ago respectively.' 

WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1996: The Nacho Man from the WWF's 'Billionaire Ted' skits
In the particular skit, Vince's witty script took a particularly harsh dig at Savage. Ted claimed that he could only get wrestlers who were 'disloyal' before the camera panned straight on Nacho. After that, Ted claimed he wanted to buy up some of the WWF's top stars, with the joke apparently being that haha, he could never do that. 

As we all know, the joke would ultimately be on the World Wrestling Federation. Just a few short months from now, WCW would see the debuts of two of the WWF's biggest stars, one of whom features in our next match.

A word from Razor Ramon

After the same promo/hype video we got earlier on in the Free For All, we went backstage to a Colliseum Home Video exclusive interview with The Bad Guy.

Dressed in street clothes and looking like he'd either just woken up or was still drunk, Razor reminded us that this was his fourth Royal Rumble appearance, despite never actually appearing in the eponymous match itself. At the 1993 Royal Rumble, he challenged Bret Hart for the WWF Title. The following year, he defended the Intercontinental Championship against I.R.S. 95 saw the same
WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1996: Scott Hall gave a pre-match promo before facing Goldust
title on the line in his match with Jeff Jarrett, and now, in what would ultimately be his last Royal Rumble appearance as Razor Razmon, Scott Hall was once again competing in singles competition against Goldust.

All Goldie had to do, said Razor, was come down and take his 'Gold belt' if he wanted it. Not that Razor really thought he could. There was only one way to find out for sure though

World Wrestling Federation Intercontinental Championship match:
WWF Intercontinental Champion Razor Ramon vs. Goldust (w/ Marlena)

Notable not only for being Razor's last Royal Rumble match, but also for the debut of Marlena, this one probably won't be remembered for any other reason, with the possible exception of the finish.

Wrapping up his WWF career, Razor spent the first minute or two of this match simply watching Goldust touch hmself up, before finally going on the attack and attempting to wrench the challenger's arm from its socket. More stalling followed, making for a slow,boring start to a bout that rarely -if ever- picked up steam.

WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1996: Goldust challenged Razor Ramon for the WWF Intercontinental Championship
Indeed most of the early part of this match was all about reminding us how 'weird' (sub-text: 'slightly homosexual') Golust was, and how angry that made the Intercontinental Champion. A minute or two of this would have been fine, still boring perhaps, but acceptable given the storyline. Instead, it seemed to go on forever, with the bout only getting anywhere near exciting when the action spilled to the outside and the challenger turned up the aggression.

Yet even then, this match didn't really deliver, and this writer was grateful when 123 Kid ran in towards the finish, thwarting a Ramon comeback attempt and enabling Goldust to get the three count, the victory, and the Intercontinental Championship.
Your Winner and NEW Intercontinental Champion: Goldust 

Prior to the big battle royal, we got some more pre-recorded comments. First up, Shawn Michaels' doctor told us that though HBK was fit and ready to go, he was concerned about the wrestler making his comeback against 29 other dudes. Don't worry though folks, the good doctor promised to be at ringside lest the worst should happen.

WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1996: Vince McMahon and Mr. Perfect were our commentators for the show
Speaking of The Heartbreak Kid, the man who originally took him out of action, Owen Hart, was up next. The King of Harts promised to end Michaels' career 'Like [Owen] should've done the first time' en route to winning that year's Rumble match.

Jake the Snake was back to talk about his demons some more, Jerry 'The King' Lawler promised to win simply because he was loyalty, and Barry Horrowitz of all people gave his thoughts too. Not as cocksure as the others, Horrowitz simply claimed that he was 'Confident and Happy' before reminding us of the WWF's favourite mantra 'Anything can happen in the World Wrestling Federation.' 

For his part, Vader headbutted some lockers, after which Shawn Michaels once again vowed that he was going all the way.

Royal Rumble match:
30-Man Battle Royal featuring: Hunter Hearst Helmsley, Shawn Michaels, Diesel, Vader, Jake 'The Snake' Roberts, Dory Funk, Mabel, Yokozuna, Tatanka, Owen Hart, Bob Holly, The Ringmaster, The British Bulldog, Marty Jannettty and more..

And so, following a few moments in which Vince McMahon and Mr. Perfect took the trouble to remind us of the rules, it was down to the famous Royal Rumble match itself. 

Having taken the trouble to get dressed again and brush his hair following his earlier battle with Duke Droese, Hunter Hearst Helmsley entered first, his number sealed by the outcome of that aforementioned Free for All bout. 

And then number two entrant? Helmsley's old rival, Henry O. Godwin. Picking up where they left off, the two sworn enemies went right to work in beating the hell out of each other, the pig farmer taking the early advantage and threatening to eliminate the future WWE Champion on several occasions. 

Presidential candidate and then-current record holder for the longest time spent in a Royal Rumble match, Bob Backlund was our third entrant, followed by entrant number four Jerry Lawler, who provided the first moment of genuine entertainment in this match by getting himself slopped. 

After several more minutes of fairly lifeless action -during which time we also saw Bob Holly and King Mabel enter the fray- Jake Roberts made his way out and caused the entire cast of the match to scarper through the ropes by ahem, getting his snake out. 

Other highlights of the 1996 Royal Rumble included:

  • Jerry Lawler spending the bulk of the match in hiding, only to be dragged out by Shawn Michaels and eliminated,
  • Cameos from Dory Funk Jr, Takao Omori, Doug Gilbert (who absolutely nobody recognised) and The Headhunters (or SWAT Team, as the WWE called them)
  • Razor Ramon seeking revenge against the 123 Kid by chasing him around the ring
  • A big showdown between Cornette's two behemoths, Yokozuna and Vader before both men were eliminated by HBK
  • Vader getting pissed off and returning to clear the ring
  • Steve 'The Ringmaster' Austin making his WWF PPV debut
  • A fun exchange between former Rockers partners Shawn Micahels and Marty Jannetty
Between such sub-par highlights, we were subjected to one of the most tedious Rumble matches this writer can recall. A slow, sluggish, nothing-happening match taking us all the way to our final four between Shawn Michaels, Diesel, Davey Boy Smith and Kama.

A short while later, Michaels threw out The Bulldog, Diesel got rid of Kama, and The Heartbreak Kid picked up his second Royal Rumble victory in a row by superkicking his best friend out of the ring. 
Your Winner: Shawn Michaels 

As Michaels celebrated, Diesel took out his frustrations by laying into the British Bulldog, before telling Doc Hendrix that the only reason Shawn Michaels had won was because he -Big Daddy Cool- allowed it, The former champion then returned to the ring, where, after teasing some hostility with Michaels, raised his hand high in the air for the duo's famous hi-five gimmick,.

With that done, there was only one thing left on the show..Yes folks, the main event. 

World Wrestling Federation Championship match
WWF Champion Bret 'The Hitman' Hart vs. The Undertaker (w/ Paul Bearer)

The best match your reviewer ever saw live in person was also a championship match between The Hitman and The Undertaker. It was at the September 1997 One Night Only pay per view in Birmingham, England

WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1996: The Undertaker challenged Bret Hart for the WWF Championship
That match was awesome, this one, not so much.

 Though for a moment there, it almost looked like it wouldn't take place at all. Making his way to the ring, the challenger was confronted by a still upset Diesel, the two men coming to blows in a move that would build up to their eventual match at Wrestlemania 12. 

Once firmly in the ring, The Undertaker awaited the arrival of champion Bret Hart, who Vince McMahon informed us was appearing at his 43rd WWF PPV. If you're interested, you can read reviews of every single one of those 43 events here on Retro Pro Wrestling.

That aside, this turned out to be the best match of the Undertaker's WWF run up to this point. Having spent the past four-and-a-bit years usually battling big, beastly bad guys in some of the worst matches of the early-mid 1990s, this was The Phenom's chance to show that he really could wrestle if given half the chance. 

That said, this certainly wasn't Bret's finest hour. Despite being far superior to a lot of what we'd see that year, this was mostly a slow, plodding affair which on several occasions threatened to send the crowd to sleep. 

The amount of time both champ and challenger spent in some kind of leglock on the matt really killed the momentum, and it took all their efforts to really engage the audience leading into the home stretch. 

Speaking of which, this one came to an end when, just as he was about to score his second WWF Championship, The Undertaker was attacked by Diesel, giving him the win via DQ, but not the title. 
Your Winner via Disqualification: The Undertaker (Bret Hart retains the title)

And so we reach the end of the Royal Rumble for another year. As odd as this may sound, my favourite match on this show was the tag team championship bout. It was short enough not to drag on, yet long enough to make each time look good. Elsewhere, there's not an awful lot to write home about. For all intents and purposes, this whole show was designed to solidify Shawn Michaels' reputation as the new Top Dog, whilst simultaneously building tension for a Diesel/Undertaker show down. 

Both of these things would play out much better over the next few months, making this event just a minor footnote in the history of the World Wrestling Federation. 

Sunday, 2 August 2015

PPV REVIEW: WWF / WWE In Your House 5: Seasons Beatings

WWF / WWE - In Your House 5: Seasons Beatings - Event poster
December 17, 1995
Hersheypark Arena in Hershey, Pennsylvania

It was December 1995, the end of one of the worst years -both financially and creatively- of the World Wrestling Federation's rocky history. The ill-fated Diesel experiment had been laid to rest, in and its place we got another main event run from new champion Bret 'The Hitman' Hart, a man who had spent much of the year treading water in the mid-card before finally reclaiming his throne as the kingpin of the company. 

Meanwhile, Bret's brother-in-law, The British Bulldog had earned himself a second WWF Championship match after defeating then-champion Diesel by disqualification at In Your House 4: Great White North. Tonight, the two would collide in singles competition for the first time since their legendary Summerslam 92 battle over the Intercontinental Championship.

Yet before we get down to all that, a personal note from your reviewer:

Since I first started this blog in 2012, I've normally had a set system for reviewing these shows: Watch them in their entirity just once, then go back and watch them again, this time writing the review as I go along. Today, we're going to do things differently, just to see how it works.

Today, I'm just going to watch In Your House 5: Seasons Beatings and record my thoughts as we go. No repeats, no rehashes, no spending forever thinking of an appropriate turn of phrase.

If it works, great. If not, we'll return to the old method next month.

Until then, let's get on with the show, shall we?

The Hart Family Divided (again)
We begin tonight's show with a Todd Pettengill voice over, hyping tonight's main event by once again playing on the 'uh oh, there's tensions in the Hart Family' for the thousandth time in the last few years.

Welcome to the show 
Cutting to the arena, our commentators are Vince 'Welcome EVERY-WAN' McMahon and Jerry 'The King' Lawler, who, among other things, showed us Santa Claus making his way through the crowds with as unlikely a pair of helpers as you could likely imagine - The Smoking Gunns. 

With that out of the way, it was onto our opening match of the show.

Sid & The Kid (w/ Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase) vs. Marty Jannetty and WWF Intercontinental Champion Razor Ramon
WWF / WWE - In Your House 5: Seasons Beatings - 123 Kid & Sycho Sid faced Razor and Jannetty
For reasons I can no longer fathom, back when I was an eleven year-old fan in 1995, there was something that really appealed to me about the random pairing of Sycho Sid and the 123 Kid. Today, I'm not entirely sure what I was thinking, but it's still nice to reminisce and see them opening up tonight's show against rivals Marty Jannetty and Razor Ramon.

Before we got to the action, Vince McMahon reminded us how most of this all kicked off the previous month at the 1995 Survivor Series, when Sid cost Marty the win over the Kid in the opening match, before 123 Kid ultimately ended up distracting Razor in that night's chaotic, 30 minute Wildcard match.

Heading back to the arena, Goldust was spotted in the crowd, ostensibly eying up Razor Ramon, though more than likely eyeing up the Intercontinental Championship he would eventually take from him by the turn of the year.

The match started off in fun fashion, Marty and the Kid trading some fast-paced action, with the latter constantly preventing the former from tagging in Razor. When the big guy finally did get his hands on his former protege, it was short lived; a blind-tag to big Sid but the kaibosh on Razor's offence and led to a beat down.

Jannetty and 123 Kid did return to the fray, though few people were actually paying much attention. Rather, they were distracted by Pettengill's efforts to get an in-crowd interview with Goldust. Fanning himself down with a copy of the recent WWF Magazine (featuring himself on the cover, no less), Goldie swooned and purred over what an attractive man Razor was, before handing the Toddster an envelope, with instructions to deliver it to the reigning IC champion.

Back to the action, Jannetty spent some time playing the proverbial babyface-in-peril before making an awesome hot tag to Razor. An entertaining, picture-perfect finishing sequence between Ramon and big Sid then led us to top-rope bulldog from the bad guy, and a win for the good guys.
Your Winners: Razor Ramon and Marty Jannetty

Afterwards, Razor attempted a Razor's Edge on 123 Kid, only for Sid to come to the save.

Jerry Laler has a big surprise.
WWF / WWE - In Your House 5: Seasons Beatings - Jeff Jarrett returned
Heading to the ring, Jerry Lawler first told the Hershey Crowd that Santa didn't like them very much, before finally unvieling the big surprise he'd been teasing since the start of the show.

That surprise? The return of J-E-DOUBLE-F, J-A-DOUBLE-R-E-DOUBLE-T, Jeff Jarrett.

Jarrett, who hadn't been seen on WWF TV since In Your House 2 that July (both he and Roadie left the company the following day), accepted a gold record from Lawler for sales of his Ain't I Great album, before announcing that he would be the first entrant in the 1996 Royal Rumble.

Dean Douglas vs. Ahmed Johnson
As Jarrett joined Lawler and McMahon at the commentary table for the next match (Jeff immediatly burrying Dean Douglas by asking 'who is this guy?') the Dean made his way to the ring and claimed that 'the doctors have done what no wrestler could do; they sidelined me.' 

Despite insisting that he could still defeat Johnson despite having a bad back, Dean then claimed that he'd been forced to find a replacement, his 'graduate student,' Buddy Landell.
No match

Ahmed Johnson vs. Buddy Landell
In a nothing squash-match, Johnson bullied Landell up to the top rope, spine-bustered him off it, then hit the Pearl River Plunge and picked up the win.
Your Winner: Ahmed Johnson

WWF / WWE - In Your House 5: Seasons Beatings - Ahmed Johnson faced Buddy Landell
Afterwards, Lawler took to the microphone to interview (read: torment) Ahmed Johnson. Claiming that nobody was impressed by Johnson's quick win, The King spent the rest of the time putting over Double J, leading to the Pearl River Powerhouse grabbing the mic.

"Let me tell you something you Achy, Breaky Heart Wannabe, you're a FAKE" screamed Ahmed as he lunged into Jarrett. Never the smartest guy in the world, Johnson then turned his attentions to lawler, only to get attacked by a guitar-wielding Jarrett. Ending the scene, the country star cemented his comeback by drilling Johnson with several chair shots, only for the big man to make a Superman comeback and start a brawl on the way to the back.

Todd delivers Goldust's message
Backstage, Todd Pettengill gave Razor Ramon the envelope from Goldust. Whatever was in the letter, it apparently pissed off The Bad Guy enough that he stormed out of the Superstar line area.

Hog Pen Match: 
Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. Henry O. Godwin 
Special referee: Hillbilly Jim
We talk a lot about how Triple H was left to absorb the punishment in the wake of the infamous Curtain Call incident, but need I remind anybody that this match -where the only way to win was to dump your opponent into a filthy pig sty- took place months before Shawn, Hunter, Hall and Nash broke kayfabe.

WWF / WWE - In Your House 5: Seasons Beatings - Hunter Hearst Helmsley (Triple H) bt. Henry O. Godwin in a Hogpen match
Whatever he did to deserve this, I have absolutely no idea.This was a slow, boring, monotonous match, where the only moment of any note came in the form of a rare flying elbow from Helmsley. The Greenwhich Snob dove off the top of the pig pen onto Godwin before both men returned to occasionally hitting one another in between long bouts of lying around taking a nap.

Eventually, Hunter backdropped Godwin into the pen to pick up the win, but still ended up taking a dump in the slop after Henry picked him up for a gorilla press slam.
Your Winner: Hunter Hearst Helmsley

As Henry and special guest referee Hillbilly Jim celebrated, Hunter, his back all cut up, took several random bumps around the pen to the delight of the crowd, and was then struck across the head by a flying milkshake. Say what you want about the current COO, he earned his spot at the top with stuff like this.

Diesel's got a bad attitude
Up next, we were given a video package showing the recent change in attitude of Big Daddy Cool. Rather than smiling and playing up the crowds, the new Diesel was a snarling bad ass, out for revenge against Owen Hart after the King of Harts took responsibility for putting Shawn Michaels out of action.

Owen Hart (w/ Jim Cornette) vs. Diesel
WWF / WWE - In Your House 5: Seasons Beatings - Big Daddy Cool Diesel had a new bad attitude
This brought us nicely to our next match, a decent -if not particularly memorable- outing, which was dominated for the most part by Diesel, despite a brief few moments where Hart got in some offence on BDC's long legs.

Regaining control, Diesel drilled Owen with a powerbomb, made a cover, and then pulled Owen up for another powerbomb. Before he could hit it though, the former champion pushed over referee Tim White, giving the win to Owen via disqualification.

The best thing you can say about this match is that it happened. It was neither good, nor bad, and mostly only done to further storylines.
Your Winner: Diesel

As Savio Vega took his turn to play 'Santa's Little Helper,' Ted Dibiase made his way to the ring and began lambasting fans for liking Christmas.

Santa turns heel
Reminding us all that 'everybody has a price for the Million Dollar Man,' Ted Dibiase cut a promo on Santa.

'He's fat, and he's ancient. You're gonna tell me can circle the globe in one night? I don't think he can get from the sofa to the fridge without blowing a fuse!"'

Said Dibiase, teaching this writer a lesson. Who knew that human beings had fuses (or maybe he meant the one in the fridge.)

As Vega yelled at Dibiase and claimed he believed in the magic of Christmas, fans in the Hersheypark centre were witness to a heel turn the likes of which we wouldn't see again until Hulk Hogan revealed himself to be the 'third man,'

Yes folks, Santa Claus himself revealed even he had a price, by turning and attacking Savio Vega.

'I don't believe that's the real Santa!'  yelled McMahon, taking the whole thing rather seriously as Vega chased Santa up the isle, beat up on Santa and revealed him to be Balls Mahoney.

Casket match: 
Mabel (w/ Sir Mo) vs. The Undertaker (w/ Paul Bearer)
WWF / WWE - In Your House 5: Seasons Beatings - Undertaker beat Mabel in a casket match
In all the time I've been writing these reviews, I've never yet seen a truly enjoyable casket match, so for one of the most entertaining I've seen to pit the Undertaker against the largely awful Mabel is something pretty interesting.

Kept reasonably short, at just six minutes plus, this wasn't exactly a classic, technical wrestling match, but it was a fun, crowd-pleasing outing with enough going on to make it enjoyable.

After a short back-and-forth battle, The Dead Man slammed both Mabel and Mo into the casket, reclaimed the gold chain that had once been his urn, and slammed the lid shut.
Your Winner: The Undertaker 

Post-match, The Undertaker returned that magic metal urn-chain to its rightful owner Paul Bearer, before repeatedly pointing to his waist, indicating that he wanted to get his hands on the WWF Championship.

WWF / WWE - In Your House 5: Paul Bearer got his urn back
Half way through our main event (more of which we'll get to in a moment), it was announced that The Undertaker would take on the winner of Hart/Bulldog at the Royal Rumble.

Promos from champ and challenger
Before we got to that match, we had a few last minute words from both the Bulldog and the Hitman.

Up first, Jim Cornette ranted and raved about how jealous Bret had always been of his brother-in-law, after which Bret's sister and Davey's wife claimed she was 100% behind her husband tonight. For his part, Davey reminded us that he'd beaten Hart three years ago, and vowed to do so again tonight.

In response, Bret kept it nice and simple: He was proud to be champion again, and would win tonight's match.

World Wrestling Federation Championship match
WWF Champion Bret 'The Hitman' Hart vs. The British Bulldog (w/ Jim Cornette and Dianna Smith)
WWF / WWE - In Your House 5: Jim Cornette with Davey Boy Smith The British Bulldog and Dianna Smith
Undoubtedly one of both men's finest hours, this was an instant classic from the moment the bell rang.

A hard-hitting, dramatic and utterly captivating main event match, things started off slow with some back-and-forth mat action before the two combatants gradually picked up the pace, beating the living daylights out of each other inside and outside of the ring.

Around the half-way point, Bret was busted open, and despite the wide-camera angles refusing to give us a good look at a battered and bloody Hitman, the move only increased the intensity of what turned out to be one of -if not the- best WWF pay per view matches of 1995.

Following all that excitement, The Hitman rolled up The Bulldog with a cradle to retain his WWF title.
Your Winner and Still WWF Champion: Bret 'The Hitman' Hart

WWF / WWE - In Your House 5: Undertaker and Diesel began their rivalry at the show
To wrap things up for tonight's show, Todd Pettengill got a backstage interview with Paul Bearer and The Undertaker regarding the latter's Royal Rumble title shot against The Hitman. Before he could say much, The Phenom was interupted by an irate Big Daddy Cool, creating a showdown that would ultimately lead to Diesel's full-on heel turn, and his Wrestlemania 12 match against The Undertaker.

And so the final pay per of the year ended on a bit of a whimper. Though I've seen other reviewers give praise to the HHH/HOG Hog Pen match, I've got to say that my heart just wasn't in it, though I do have to give credit where it's due to Hunter for working his ass off. Before that, the opening match was also fairly enjoyable, and the Mabel/Taker casket match turned out to be better than it really had any right to be. Yet in all fairness, if you never saw any of those matches at all, you wouldn't be too worse off. 
For all intents and purposes, this was a one-match show. The Bulldog/Hitman WWF Championship match truly was one of the best bouts I've seen since I started this blog, and undoubtedly one of the top three WWF matches of 1995. 

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

PPV REVIEW: WWF / WWE Survivor Series 1995

WWF / WWE SURVIVOR SERIES 95 - Event poster
November 19, 1995,
USAir Arena in Landover, Maryland

By the time November 1995 rolled around, Vince McMahon must have surely been ready to face facts: The Diesel Experiment had hardly been the kind of resounding success he must have been hoping for. 

Almost a full calendar year had gone by since Big Daddy Cool captured the title from Bob Backlund in the wake of Survivor Series 1994, and between then and now, we'd seen Shawn Micahels' former bodyguard run roughshod in a series of main events which -whilst entertaining in places- pretty much bombed.

Indeed, there was only two matches throughout Diesel's entire run that were memorable for the right reason; his Wrestlemania 11 match against the aforementioned HBK, and his Royal Rumble 95 outing with Bret 'The Hitman' Hart, a man who tonight would lock-up with the champion in an attempt to claim back the title he lost a year ago.

Who emerged victorious? What else went down at Survivor Series 1995? Let's find out together, shall we?

Razor hypes the wild-card match
Immediately following the company's ident, tonight's show began with a backstage promo from . Sat in the locker room and getting into his gear, The Bad Guy hyped tonight's 'wild card' match, a bout where the traditional 'good guys vs. bad guys' story had been flipped on its head, instead seeing both heels and faces join forces on the same team.
WWF / WWE SURVIVOR SERIES 95 - Mr. Perfect, Jim Ross and Vince McMahon commentate
Razor Ramon

Mr. Perfect returns
From there, we went straight to the arena, were Howard Finkle introduced a returning Mr. Perfect. Joining Jim Ross and Vince McMahon as our commentary team for the evening, Perfect looked a picture of radiance as he settled in ready to host tonight's show.

Four vs. Four Traditional Survivor Series Match
The Underdogs (Team Captain Marty Jannetty, Hakushi, Bob Holly and Barry Horrowitz) 
The Body Donnas 
(Team Captain Skip, Rad Radford, Dr. Tom Pritchard and 123 Kid, w/ Sunny and Ted Dibiase)

With the good guys making their way to the ring first, it was up to Sunny to introduce her three out of the four members of her team to the live audience. Once safely between the ropes, our standard ring announcer did the honours for 'surprise' team mate the 123 Kid, who, following a year of tension with one-time best friend Razor, had finally turned heel and aligned himself with Ted Dibiase's Million Dollar Corporation

Still seething at the betrayal, Ramon darted through the curtain in an attempt to get at the Kid, only to have his efforts thwarted by a wall of referees, who sent him to the back so that our match could begin properly. 

And man, what a match it was. 

Your writer is quite prepared to go on record as saying that The Underdogs vs. The Body Donnas is by far one of the best traditional Survivor Series matches that ever took place. Indeed, despite their low status on the card at the time, all eight men went out to the ring that night to show that they were every bit as talented (if not a whole lot more) than their peers in the top-tier of the card. 

WWF / WWE SURVIVOR SERIES 95 - 123 Kid wrestled on the Body Donnas Team
From start to finish, both teams delivered bell to bell excitement that really had the crowd hooked. I mean, this thing had everything: high flying, technical wrestling, a touch of comedy (Skip raising his arm to celebrate before collapsing face-first into the canvas was hilarious) and entertainment aplenty. 

In fact, the more I think about it, the more I'm prepared to say that this isn't just one of the best Survivor Series matches I've seen, but by far one of the most enjoyable bouts I've watched since I first started Retro Pro Wrestling a few years ago. 

After the better part of 20 minutes, only 123 Kid and his former tag team partner, Marty Jannetty remained. With both men battling towards a dramatic climax, Sycho Sid made his way to the ring, intefering on behalf of his Million Dollar Corporation stablemate, and giving the win to the Kid.
Your Winners: The Body Donnas (123 Kid is your sole survivor) 

As the 123 Kid celebrated in the ring, we were shown a backstage clip of Razor Ramon destroying the dressing room, visibly pissed off at the Kid's victory. 

WWF / WWE SURVIVOR SERIES 95 - Owen Hart, Yokozuna, Dean Douglas, Jim Cornette and Mr. Fuji
Speaking of Ramon, his 'wild card' team mates Owen Hart, Yokozuna and Dean Douglas were waiting backstage, where Jim Cornette claimed that even though nobody on that team wanted Razor to join them, if he absolutely had to, The Bad Guy had better get his head together. 

Four vs. Four Women's Traditional Survivor Series Match
Bertha Faye, Aja Kong, Tomoko Watanabe, and Lioness Asuka (with Harvey Wippleman) 
Alundra Blayze, Kyoko Inoue, Sakie Hasegawa and Chaparita Asari
For all intents and purposes, there was only one real reason why this match even took place; to set up a WWF Women's Championship match between reigning champion Alundra Blayze and Aja Kong

Yet until we got to that point, the eight women involved delivered a great little match chock-full of high spots and the kind of innovative wrestling moves not normally seen by US audiences. 

Whilst Mr. Perfect delivered a tirade of chauvinistic sexist comments on the mic, both teams exchanged frequent tags, more suplexes than your typical Brock Lensar match and all kinds of off-the-top rope goodies to create the second enjoyable contest of the evening. 

Though not quite on a par with our opener, this was a pretty captivating affair, which came to a head with Kong and Blayze as the sole representatives of their respective teams. A short tussle later, and the woman from Japan went over, leading to the inevitable challenge for the Women's title. 
Your Winners: Bertha Faye's Team (Aja Kong is your sole survivor)

Out in the crowd, Todd Pettingill interviewed a Bill Clinton look alike in one of the worst attempts at humour you've ever seen on a wrestling show. As Bam Bam Bigelow made his way to the ring, 'The President' claimed he'd followed The Beast From the East's career ever since he was 'a little boy playing around with Pebbles.' Indeed. 

Bam Bam Bigelow vs. Goldust 
WWF / WWE SURVIVOR SERIES 95 - Goldust cuts a pre-match promo before facing Bam Bam Bigelow
After two exciting matches, things were set to slow down considerably with our next match; a slow, lumbering bout which, for the duration of its 8+ minutes, constantly threatened to send the crowd to sleep. 

Truth be told, I wanted to like this match, I really did. Bam Bam was an incredible performer, whilst in terms of Goldust,  it was certainly interesting to see one of the WWE's longest-running characters in the early stages of his career, but put the two together, and there wasn't much to write home about. 

Given the huge push he'd received since his debut, it wasn't too surprising to see Goldust pick up the victory thanks to a simple running bulldog. What was surprising though, is that two otherwise talented wrestlers just couldn't pull it together enough to create anything but an entirely forgettable contest with very little good to say about it. 
Your Winner: Goldust 

Heading back to the crowd, our friend Bill Clinton urged Bob Backlund to run against him in the next presidential ellections. No doubt kicking off the whole 'Backlund for President' gimmick that would run for several months in the mid-90s, this was another completly unfunny segment, complete with some topical news references which, some 23 years later, make very little sense to this writer. 

Four vs. Four Traditional Survivor Series Match
 The Royals (King Mabel, Jerry Lawler, Isaac Yankem, DDS, and Hunter Hearst Helmsley w/ Sir Mo)
The Darkside (The Undertaker, Savio Vega, Fatu and Henry O. Godwinn w/ Paul Bearer) 
WWF / WWE SURVIVOR SERIES 95 - Undertaker chokeslams Triple H
If you recall, this whole thing began back at the 1995 King of the Ring, when Mabel toppled Undertaker en route to his eventually tournament win. Building things up slowly throughout the remainder of the year, things eventually exploded in the run-up to the October 95 In Your House PPV, when Mabel 'face-crushed' THe Undertaker (Vince McMahon's words, not mine), putting him out of action for over a month.

Making his return at tonight's show, The morbid and morose Undertaker sought revenge by teaming with three happy-go-lucky, perma-smiled babyfaces to take on his rival, Mabel, the man who would later become his brother, Isaac Yankem, Jerry Lawler and future WWE COO, Triple H.

As matches go, this was far from the worst that ever happened, but it almost looked like it could have been in the early going. Indeed, things only reached any level of excitement once The Undertaker himself tagged in. Having watched his goofy team mates go back and forth with The Royals, The Phenom finally entered the ring and systematically destroyed each of his opponents. 
Your Winners: The Dark Side (everyone survives)

WWF / WWE SURVIVOR SERIES 95 - Undertaker returned wearing a protective mask
Prior to our next contest, Vince McMahon and Jim Ross reminded us that the winner of tonight's Hitman/Diesel WWF Championship match would go on to face The British Bulldog at December In Your House pay per view. Cutting to pre-recorded comments from champ and challenger, both men claimed that they'd worry about the Bulldog later. For now, they were entirely focused on tonight, each man reminding us that this would be a battle between the skill of Bret versus the size and strength of Diesel. 

Moving to live interviews, Todd Pettingill questioned Jim Cornette about who's side he was actually on tonight. 'I just interviewed you earlier with the other team!' exclaimed Todd, only for James E. to claim he hadn't seen hide nor hair of Pettingill all day. 

Following Ted Dibiase's warning that the Bulldog should in no way cross the Million Dollar Man, Shawn Michaels and Ahmed Johnson arrived, insisting that everyone get on the same page and work together. 

Four vs. Four 'Wildcard' Match
Team Michaels (Shawn Michaels, Ahmed Johnson, The British Bulldog, and Sycho Sid w/ Ted DiBiase)
 Team Yokozuna (Yokozuna, Owen Hart, Razor Ramon and Dean Douglas (w/ Mr. Fuji)
Just to refresh your memory, the Unique Selling Point of this match was that it was the first Survivor Series elimination match to feature both heels and faces on the same side, with Davey Boy Smith forced to joi up with Shawn Michaels, newcomer Ahmed Johnson and Sycho Sid in order to take on his Camp Cornette team mates Owen and Yoko, along with bitter rivals Razor Ramon and Dean Douglas.

An idea laid down by then WWF President Gorilla Monsoon, this break-from-the-norm was primarily designed (in kayfabe terms at least) to frustrate and torment Jim Cornette, who spent much of the match torn between both both teams.

More than holding its own when compared to our opening Underdogs vs. Body Donnas match, Team Michaels vs. Team Yokozuna more than delivered. Clocking in at just under half an hour, early highlights included duels between Michaels and Owen, Michaels and Razor, and Owen and brother-in-law the Bulldog. 

WWF / WWE SURVIVOR SERIES 95 - Shawn Michaels, Sid, Ahmed Johnson and British Bulldog were on the same team
The result was an intense, dramatic affair with tensions brewing on either side and enough action in the ring to ensure there was scarcely a dull moment in the longest match on the card.

Eventually boiling down to Razor and Yoko against Smith, Johnson and Michaels, the Bad Guy was distracted by Sid, who had previously been eliminated, only to return with the 123 Kid in tow. Faced against three opponents, Yoko gutted it out, missing a banzai drop on Shawn Michaels before Ahmed Johnson tagged in,

The Pearl River Powerhouse slammed the sumo star to the mat and made the cover, only for Davey Boy to turn on his team mates and break up the pin fall. Shooting Davey Boy of the ring, Johnson eventually picked up the win for his team, after which the Bulldog jumped for joy in the ring, much to the chagrin of his team mates.
Your Winners: Team Michaels (HBK, Davey Boy and Ahmed Johnson survive)

Back to the crowd for the final time, Fake Bill Clinton offered Sunny a job as his 'under secretary,' before we got a great hype package for our main event.

Making Diesel vs. Bret Hart seem like a legitimate big deal in a way that you just don't see any more, comments from both men were spliced with footage of their two previous PPV matches, both of which were some of the best either man would have in the WWE.

World Wrestling Federation Championship match
WWF Champion Big Daddy Cool Diesel vs. Bret 'The Hitman' Hart
WWF / WWE SURVIVOR SERIES 95 - Bret Hart beat Diesel for the WWF title
Whether they were doing battle at the 1994 King of the Ring or at the aforementioned Royal Rumble 1995, Hart and Nash always seemed to produce something special, and in their penultimate PPV encounter together, they did it again.

Trying their best to intimidate each other in the early going by removing the turnbuckle pads, both champ and challenger took their time to begin with, gradually building up the pace into a wild, no-holds barred brawl, with both men throwing the rule book far out of the window and going at it with a passionate desperation that was truly captivating.

Heralding the start of BDC's gradual heel turn (something he'd keep up until the end of his WWF run), the champion left it all on the line as he displayed an aggression that was unbecoming of a top-level 1995 babyface.

Not that Bret held much back either. Making up for his size disadvantage by going for the knee, the Hitman showed signs of the kind of viciousness he'd display in his own heel run of 1997, eventually withstanding a brutal amount of punishment before wrapping up his opponent for the cover, the count, and the victory.
Your Winner and NEW WWF Champion: Bret 'The Hitman' Hart

The new champion didn't have much time to celebrate however. Visibly irate, Big Daddy Cool returned to the ring and leveled his victor with two wicked Jacknife Powerbombs to bring the show to a close.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is all she wrote. Easily one of the better pay per views of 1995, there was a lot to enjoy here. From the wildly entertaining opening match to the brutal brawl of our main event, Survivor Series 1995 marked a real turning point in the WWF's in-ring quality, and looked to set things up nicely for an interesting 1996. 

Monday, 9 March 2015

From the loft: WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 -   Magazine cover ft. Kane
Three months on from the 1998 Royal Rumble, the World Wrestling Federation's publication schedule had them still ranting about Kane setting fire to the Undertaker, the short-lived NWA revival, and the violent history of Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie.

Yes, I'm back to doing this again. Every now and again, as part of a long, drawn-out clear out, I head up into the loft, pull out an old wrestling magazine, slap it down here on Retro Pro Wrestling, then promptly throw the whole thing in the garbage.

This time out, we're going through my battered, crumpled copy of WWF Raw Magazine from April 1998.

Ready? Let's do this.

Vic Venom: Vince Russo rages about some sports writer 

Just this once, let's skip over the contents page and several ads trying to get us to subscribe to both this and the more PG-friendly WWF Magazine, and head straight to the content. 

First up, Vince Russo's scathing alter-ego Vic Venom launches a full-blown attack on The New York Post for daring to criticise Mike Tyson and his involvement in Wrestlemania 15. 

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 -   Vic Venom
This isn't just any rant, of course. It's Vince Russo in the FREAKIN' !@#$% ATTITUDE ERA, so it's full of his trademark attempts at trying to be edgy by WRITING IN CAPS A LOT and occasioanlly typing stuff like @#!%$ to indicate that he's swearing.

Get through all that, and what we've got here is Russo giving us the low-down on ethics in journalism and why New York scribes lack the stuff. Fair enough, but I'm still kind of wondering whose job it was to stuff a newspaper down the toilet and take a picture of it. 

The Informer 

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 -   Shawn Michaels bare ass
Because if there was one thing pro wrestling fans needed more of back in the late 90s, it was Shawn Michaels' bare ass. 

This time out, the Heartbreak Kid's naked booty was the lead picture for a two-pager by The Informer, another Russo character we were supposed to believe was dishing out real insider dirt on all the behind-the-scenes shenanigans in the World Wrestling Federation. 

Rather than the random tidbits usually found in WWF Magazine, we instead got a more biting OMG-YOU'RE-NOT-GONNA-!@$%#-BELIEVE THIS piece suggesting that the 'old guard' were not too happier about the company's move to the Attitude Era. 

No !$#%, Sherlock.  Beyond stating the obvious though, Russo The Informer does at least erm, inform us, that both sides were trying to work together for the common good. After all, they were all in it for the love of wrestling, right?

Letters to the Editor 

Having worked as a magazine journalist in a previous life, I'm well aware that staffers are sometimes tasked with making up these supposed Reader's Letters, but reading through the pages of Raw Magazine, Iwish to God some of them are genuine. 

Like the one from a Ms. Patricia Doherty of Providence, Rhode Island, who strongly suggests that Vince McMahon should to more to 'evaluate the superstars he lets into his organization' lest some of them, you know, put the Undertaker in a casket or set fire to it or something. 

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 -   Letters to the Editor

Wherever you are Ms. Doherty, please tell me you genuinely wrote this letter. 

Elsewhere, Leanne Winter of Denver, Colorado was thrilled that the mag had previously acknowledged Kama Mustafa and Papa Shango as being one and the same. Keith Morgan was disappointed that the heel Jim Cornette had done heelish things, and Connecticut's own Gary Cooper was full of praise for a recent American Online Chat by Vincent Kennedy McMahon himself. 

Speaking of America Online, it's interesting to note that the company's email address back then ended in @AOL.COM. Wonder if they still check that account?

Ragin' Ross: Everybody's got potential, apparently 

Up next, Good Ol' JR brings us his regular column, intended to be a snapshot of the random thoughts that fluttered through his brain, but really just Ross telling us how half the roster could be the next big thing. 

According to Jim, Vader and Ken Shamrock were both ready to take it to the next level, Flash Funk was underated and deserved more, The Jackyl had the potential to be huge, as did Kurgan, Brawshaw, Pierre of the Quebeccers and D'Lo Brown. 

Well, at least he got one of those right. 

Jim Cornette on the NWA title 

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 -   Jim Cornette charts the history of the NWA title

Flipping over the page, we find James E. Cornette on fine, old-school form as he continues to chart the history of the NWA title. 

In this second installment of his two-part feature, Cornette chronicles the belt's linage from 1984 up to the present day, noting, with some glee, that the WCW's title was not the same one that began life way back in 1905, a result, of course, of Nature Boy Ric Flair's jump to the World Wrestling Federation in the early 1990s. 

It Didn't Start With Tyson: How athletes from other sports have fared in the squared circle 

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 -   Austin and Tyson

You remember the story, don't you? Back in the early days of the Attitude Era, boxing star Mike Tyson had a brief run with the WWF in which he was pitted as the special enforcer for a Wrestlemania 14 match between Shawn Micahels and Stone Cold Steve Austin. In the build up to the big event, Tyson aligned himself with Michaels and his DX camp, only to turn face at the big event and reveal himself to be an Austin guy. 

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 -   Muhammad Ali
Yet Iron Mike wasn't the only sporting star to grace the WWF ring, and in this multi-page article, Keith Elliot Greenberg analyses the success -or lack thereof- of other stars who made their way into pro wrestling from another sport entirely. 

Ken Shamrock, Mark Henry, Dan Severn, and Farooq are all accounted for here, as are the likes of Wrestlemania 11 headliner, Lawrence Taylor, Muhammad Ali, Wrestlemania 1 attraction Mr. T, William 'The Refrigerator' Perry, Butterbean and Ken Patera.

Need more names who made the transition? How about Bronko Nagurski, the former NWA champion who defeated Lou Thesz for the title back in 1939, Ernie 'The Big Cat' Ladd, and a whole host of others, including Blackjack Mulligan, Wahoo McDaniel, all of whom were stars of the football field at one time or another. 

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 -   Butterbean and Marc Mero
Switching to boxing, Greenberg goes into some detail about any number of Boxing vs. Wrestling matches, including the now infamous bout between Muhammad Ali and Antonio Inoki. 

Keeping the same thing going, we learn that, whilst Ali and Inoki were boring everybody to tears with a match in which the latter spent most of the time on the matt, kicking at the boxing legend's legs, across the ocean at New York's Shea Stadium, a bout between the late, great Andre the Giant and 'Bayonne Bleeder' Chuck Wepner, provided much more excitement, especially when Andre got fed up of Wepner jabbing at him, and simply deposited him over the ropes and on to the arena floor. 

Before that, we get lots of praise for a man who was then regarded as something akin to the best non-wrestler ever to step foot inside a professional wrestling ring, LT. 

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 -   Lawrence Taylor battles Bam Bam Bigelow
Make no mistake about it, Taylor's performance at Wrestlemania 11 was far better than it should have been.

OK, so we're not talking Daniel Bryan or Shawn Michaels here, but Taylor did at least manage to hold his own and not look completely out of his element, something those pro footballers who would later go on to compete in WCW rings couldn't exactly say themselves. 

Here, Greenberg notes that "Wrestlers later said that Taylor was a gifted and determined as any athlete to ever step into wrestling from another sport." 

Whilst I wouldn't necessarily go as far as to call him 'gifted,' I'll agree that it was praise well due for a man I'm sure holds the distinction of making his professional wrestling debut (and I suppose retirement match) in the main event of Wrestlemania. 

It's an NWA Revival: And Vince McMahon is the Target

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 -  Jim Cornette leads an NWA revival

Over the next several pages, the one and only Kevin Kelly reminds us of the short-lived National Wrestling Alliance in which Jim Cornette, Jeff Jarrett, Blackjack Winham and The Rock 'n' Roll Express attempted to do something. Not necessarily take-over the World Wrestling Federation like a poor, old man's version of the New World Order, but well, to this day your writer still isn't entirely sure what was going on there, nor does Mr. Kelly make it all that clear. 

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 -  Feature on the 98 NWA revival in WWF
Sure, he gives us a motive. Reminding us of those admittedly entertaining shoot promos Cornette was doing on Raw for a while, Kelly informs us that "Cornette called for the return to pure wrestling like the NWA used to provide, and said talent like Jeff Jarrett had gone unappreciated for too long.

"Claiming the Raw is War program was long on emotion but short on substance, Cornette put the Federation in a bad spot. It appeared as if no one took him seriously when he threatened to take action the following week, but what Cornette did was unprecedented."

What he did, was essentially have Jarrett win an NWA title nobody cared about, and turn Windham against his former New Blackacks partner, JBL.

As far as I recall, the angle bombed and was never really spoken about again.

Split personality: Is it basic instinct for Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie to brutalize each other?

If there's one thing this fan remembers fondly from the early part of 1998, it's Terry Funk sticking a pair of stockings over his head, inexplicably changing his name to Chainsaw Charlie, and teaming up with Mick Foley in his Cactus Jack guise to generally raise all kind of slapstick-hardcore chaos. 

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 -  Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie

When they weren't feuding with the newly-formed New Age Outlaws, Cactus and Chainsaw, far from dumping each into barbed wire as they did back in the 1995 King of Deathmatch tournament, largely beat each other up with chairshots for no good reason. 

 Over the course of the next few pages, Bill Banks gives us the history of the two hardcore icons, and suggests that they're storied rivalry was far from over. 

Blazing Soul: An Undertaker/Kane pictorial

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 -  Undertaker vs. Kane picture essay

They say a picture speaks a thousand words, and in this pictorial essay of the feud between The Undertaker, Paul Bearer and Kane, that was especially true. 

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 -  Kane vs. The Undertaker

The two had been at loggerheads since the Bad Blood pay per view of October 1997, recounted in detail in the January 1998 edition of WWF Magazine. As The Undertaker continued to refuse to fight is long-lost brother, Kane and Bearer continued to torment and torture The Phenom, right up to locking him a casket at the end of his WWF Championship match with Shawn Michaels at the 1998 Royal Rumble, and promptly setting fire to it. 

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 -  Kane tombstones The Undertaker
Finally, The Undertaker would relent, and agree to face his brother at Wrestlemania 14, taking no less than three Tombstone piledrivers to put the Big Red Machine away for the three count. 

Not entirely unlike Cactus and Funk, the two would then spend the best part of a decade, if not more, occasionally fighting each other, occasionally joining forces as The Brothers of Destruction, and occasionally charting entirely different courses throughout the WWE without ever really acknowledging one another. 

But before all that, it started here, with nine simple lines of copy that were perhaps the best thing Russo ever committed to publication. 

Not that they were outstanding or anything, but had Vinny Ru been in his usual frame of mind at the time, the accompanying text to this article would have likley read something like. 

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 -  Kane strikes The Undertaker
"Undertaker was once a FREAKIN' UNSTOPPABLE !@#!% MONSTER. He kicked ass and he did it on his own damn terms whether the Titan "suits" liked it or not. Then came Kane, and he was an ever bigger !$&%# MONSTER. I mean the guy was a FREAK. And he set Undertaker on fire."

Instead, he gave us these nine simple, yet very effective lines:

"It began with a secret. For years locked away in a vault. Until the crypt keeper set Pandora free. The fire in the eyes of the young child was insatiable. The pain. Intense. The innocent child had but one thing on his mind. Revenge. So in anger he stalked.

"The inferno had raged beyond his control. Fueled by the crypt keeper. The unthinkable. The revenge. The end. The beginning."

Simple, but solid. Congrats, Mr. Russo, that's pretty good for a guy who -in this time period anyway- tended to write like an angry teenager with ADHD.

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 -  Kane chokeslams The Undertaker
 I seem to recall there being a huge centerfold picturing Kane standing amist a blaze of flames as his brother supposedly burned to a crisp in the background, but alas, I appear to have lost that/

Oh well, moving on then.

Why Mark Canterbury and Dennis Knight: Why we should take The Godwins seriously

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 - Feature on The Godwins

Mark Canterbury and Dennis Knight, begins this Vic Venom-penned rant, 'Two names that mean absolutely nothing to fans of the World Wrestling Federation. However...two names that should. Let me try again. Henry O. Godwin and Phineas I. Godwin. HOG & PIG. "Titan Suits" ride again!!

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 - Henry Godwin blasts Vince McMahon
Russo loved raging against his employers, always referring to them as the 'Titan Suits,' and in this piece, he was on usual form, lambasting the very creative department he was part of for saddling two burly ass-kickers like Canterbury and Knight with the ridiculous gimmick of happy-go-lucky pig farmers. 

Just let them get down to kicking ass and taking names, argued 'Venom' and the World Wrestling Federation would've been a brighter place for it. 

If memory serves me correctly (and in this instance, I'm not sure it does), isn't that exactly what happened? Didn't the two get serious in keeping with the shift towards reality-based gimmicks at the time? Didn't they eventually become Southern Justice and fade from obscurity until Phineas started running around wearing nothing but a fanny-pack and calling himself Naked Mideon?

World Wrestling Federation Superstar line 

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 - WWF Superstar Line ad featuring Jim Ross
Look, I know the WWF was moving towards a more adult-orientated product at the time, but am I the only one disturbed by the fact that, in 1998, they advertised a premium rate phone line with the phrase 'Do somethin' with yourself!'?

Still, if you wanted to, erm, do somethin' with yourself whilst listening to Jim Ross bringing you 'all the news and behind-the-scenes info on Federation happenings, or to post-match interviews at the next big pay per view, you were in luck. 

For only $1.49 US, $1.99 in Canada, and a bargain 50p in the United Kingdom, you could do just that, as well as paying for the chance to play 'Trivia, Challenge and Adventures games...and try to win a prize! or to listen to 'The gospel according to the walking blue special..' in what I can only imagine was some kind of pre-taped rant courtesy of James E. Cornette. 

I've said this before when reviewing WWF magazines, but Cornette was !@#$ EVERYWHERE back in the late 1990s, at least he was if the magazines are to be believed. Sure, I remember him being on TV, but I don't remember him being quite the prominent figure he is in print. I mean, every other page, there's at least one mention of ol' James E.

Comparing The Rock to Muhammad Ali 

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 - Comparing The Rock to Muhammad Ali

Both were wildly-charismatic trash-talkers with a seemingly God-given knack for kicking ass and rising to the top of their chosen fields. Both were, at one time or another, universally-rivaled, and yes, both were of a darker skin tone than some of their peers, so it was only a matter of time before somebody drew parallels between boxing legend, Muhammad Ali, and future movie star, The Rock. 

In one of Raw Magazine's more entertaining pieces, that's exactly what Kevin Kelly does, not just comparing the two, but suggesting that both men were hated out of jealousy and racism rather than any shared love of talking smack. 

Get banged on a Saturday night 

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 - Shotgun Saturday Night ad featuring The Headbangers
You remember Shotgun Saturday Night, right? Befor it became just another B-level show, this was WWF's attempt to replicate the intimate, adult-orientated atmosphere by holding raunchy shows in a number of nightclubs. 

One of the more memorable moments from those early shows, outside Marlena flashing her breasticles to a surprised Bob Backlund, was Glen Ruth and Charles Warrington dressed up as a tag team called The Flying Nuns. 

So it's probably fitting then that the two should appear here under their most famous guise as The Headbangers in an ad for that very same show. 

I've got to be honest though, I'm not sure I understand the connotations of "Television with 'REAL' meaning," especially when it comes as the tag line for a scripted pro wrestling show. Oh well. 

Remembering The Samoans 

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 - Remembering The Samoans

Hey, do you remember The Samoans? Of course you do. Before we had The HEadshrinkers, before we had The Usos, we had Afa & Sika, led by the one and only Captain Lou Albano. 

Here, Lou Gianfriddo introduces new fans to the duo and their greatest in-ring accomplishments. 

The Night the Belt Changed Hands: Shawn Michaels vs. Marty Jannetty 

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 - The Night the Belt Changed Hands - Shawn Michaels vs. Marty Jannetty

I've mentioned many times in the past that my first introduction to the world of professional wrestling was witnessing Shawn Michaels hurling Marty Jannetty through the barbershop window whilst flicking through the TV channels one Sunday afternoon. 

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 - Marty Jannetty dominates Shawn Michaels
What I never really mentioned, was that a year later, and at the ripe young age of nine, Jannetty was absolutely my favourite WWF wrestler in the world, with Tatanka not far behind. 

So you can probably imagine how happy I was back then to discover that my favourite Superstar had finally got the better of that no-good Shawn Michaels and taken his Intercontinental Championship, even if it wasn't to last. 

The event itself took place on June 6th, 1993 from Albany, New York. 

Michaels had just unveiled his new bodyguard in the form of shell-suit wearing, crop-topped giant, Kevin 'Diesel' Nash, but it wasn't enough on that fateful night to stop Jannetty capturing the gold, and holding on to it for just a number of days.

Here, Lucas Swineford gives us the full history of the former Rockers team mates, and recounts that famous night in New York in all its glory. 

Fantasy warfare: Bob Backlund vs. Owen Hart 

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 - Owen Hart vs. Bob Backlund fantasy warfare
There was a time in the mid nineties when Owen Hart and Bob Backlund were, if not exactly bossom-buddies, then at least solid allies in their battle to overthrow a common enemy in the form of Owen's older brother, Bret. 

Here though, Bill Banks casts the two not as evil heels working on the same page, but as two opponents doing battle in what could have been a great match. 

As with all of these Raw Magazine fantasy warfare efforts, we never got Banks' opinion on who would have prevailed in such a clash, but instead get a simple analysis of their key wins, losses, strengths and weaknesses. 

Undertaker Chokeslams Chyna 

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 - Undertaker Chokeslams Chyna
And finally, we end with this 'Raw Exclusive Photo' of The Undertaker lifting up Chyna by the throat and preparing to drive her down into the canvas. 

Another magazine done then, I'm off to go throw in this in the recycle pile and move on to something else. 

To keep updated on the latest Retro Pro Wrestling reviews, to ask me any questions, or to simply say Hi, come follow me on Twitter at @Retropwrestling.

When you've done that, why not head to my new Youtube channel to check out the first episode of the Retro Pro Wrestling Show, in which I look back at the year that was 1992, and all the various World Wrestling Federation shenanigans that went on at the time. 

Until next time, thanks for reading. 

Retro Pro Wrestling

New reviews of classic WWF/WWE events recalling every moment from Wrestlemania 1 - 30. You'll also find reviews of WCW, ECW, TNA and the occasional indie event, along with a look at old school magazines, merchandise and more.